WITH respect to Partygate, a frequently deployed trope of the Prime Minister’s apologists is that, while we are on the verge of World War Three, his fixed penalty notice for breaking his own lockdown laws is the equivalent of a speeding ticket. Given the hurt experienced by so many bereaved relatives, it is a risky line to take.

Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis tried to have it both ways on Tuesday’s Radio 4 Today programme when he said: “I’m not in any way trying to equate a speeding ticket with the sacrifices people have made through Covid.” Michal Husain replied, cogently: “You’ve actually literally just done that.”

But what interests me about this exchange is the tacit assumption that a speeding ticket is trivial. Mr Lewis would never have said that Mr Johnson’s fixed penalty notice was the equivalent of a conviction for drink driving. And yet, deliberately to flout the speed limit is just as reprehensible as driving under the influence of alcohol; it may even be cumulatively more dangerous, because the practice of speeding is so widespread.

According to Reported Road Casualties Great Britain (RRCGB), in 2019 there were 1,752 road deaths, and 153,158 people were injured, 25,945 of them seriously. These figures are based on police STATS19 data, but Hospital Episode Statistics consider STATS19 to underestimate the true figures for injury, which the Department for Transport consider could be as much as three times higher.

On the roads, speed is the major causative agent of death, and of major trauma. Speed restrictions exist as part of a culture of safety. And yet speed limits are widely ignored. You only need to drive into Glasgow from the north-east to see this. There is a 50mph limit on the M80 from about the Bishopbriggs turn-off, falling to 40 mph on the M8 with current lane restrictions. Adhere to these, and you will find yourself being passed at high speed on both sides. Adhere to the 20 mph limit in many towns and suburbs, and you will be tailgated, and intimidated with flashing lights and blasts of the horn. Meanwhile you can listen to the blithe travel report on Radio 2, and its litany of “accidents” – as if these events were unpredictable bolts from the blue. Nearly five people die on the roads every day, and nobody seems to mind. We have a cultural problem. Speedsters really don’t believe the speed limits pertain to them.

So the notion that Boris Johnson breaking lockdown rules is like breaking the speed limit is perfectly accurate. It’s not the 10-minute birthday cake ambush that’s the problem, it’s the culture – so fatally betrayed by Allegra Stratton all these months ago – that the rules don’t apply to the occupants of No 10. The first questioner on last week’s BBC’s Any Questions eloquently drew a direct line between that culture, and deaths in care homes. The direct causative line between speed, and death on the roads, is precisely analogous.

Dr Hamish Maclaren, Stirling.


I NOTE with interest your report from the NASUWT teaching union annual conference ("Teachers ‘expected to be available 24/7’", The Herald, April 18). Never has the phrase "making a rod for your own back" been more apt than in the life of a teacher. One member said that "parents and students now feel they can access teachers 24 hours a day, seven days a week". The union's general secretary said: "We are witnessing a high prevalence of burnout among the school workforce."

The key to disrupting this cycle lies in the word "No". As a peripatetic music teacher I serviced five schools, an average of 750 pupils, per week. Organisation and communication were essential. The business of each school was conducted on the day I attended that school.

When a headmaster, new in post and later nicknamed "last-minute.com", asked for my mobile number I said: "No, my mobile phone is for personal use." When he requested my email address, likewise: "Why? I'm here. Anything to be discussed happens today."

A few years later, I went into a school and was informed that it had its own Facebook page. I shook my head, thinking that's one way to open a can of worms. Are we surprised teachers are subject to online verbal abuse? No. Given the platform, it is to be expected.

Teachers are suffering from a lack of boundaries in class and out of it. Set boundaries and if pressured, play for time. Consult your union but on no accoun, allow yourself to be bullied, harassed or your needs ignored. Teachers have rights. The right to work in a safe environment. The right to a family life. The right to privacy. Most importantly the right to be respected. If you don't demand it, you won't get it.

Maureen McGarry-O'Hanlon, Balloch.


I WAS surprised to learn recently that electric vehicles cannot be flat-towed ­– that is, with their wheels on the ground. They instead have to be loaded on to a flat bed trailer. This applies to buses and the like, causing great inconvenience. It is also not recommended to tow hybrid vehicles, especially those which generate electricity through the wheels or brakes. To do so to an EV can do a lot of damage to the engine.

This is something which is not publicised greatly by those encouraging us to purchase such vehicles. I wonder why.

J Morrison, Renfrew.


YOUR correspondence on peeing on the compost heap (Letters, April 19 & 20) brought to mind my friend informing me that she persuaded her husband to pee all the way round the house to discourage an un-neutered tom cat from spraying. When I went to Kuwait and was involved in animal rescue, I advised expats who had trouble with tom cats spraying around their windows and doors, to get their husbands to pour a jug of male urine all around the exterior of the house. That solved the problem. No more smelly spraying.

Margaret Forbes, Blanefield.


I ALWAYS enjoy the Remember when ... images as they give those of us of a certain age a chance to see shops from our youth often now long gone. My curiosity was aroused by the Clydesdale Rubber Co shop in Tuesday's image where Greaves sports shop is today ("Thomas Cook opened a travel centre in Glasgow", The Herald, April 19), as it seemed an odd name for a city centre shop. A bit of googling the shop name led me to the surprising discovery that it is still registered at the same address, as it became Greaves.

The things you learn.

Douglas Jardine, Bishopbriggs.